Bad weather hinders search for missing Indonesian plane

 An airport Officer writes the details of the missing Aviastar plane at a crisis center in Hasanuddin International Airport in South Sulawesi, Indonesia on Oct 02, 2015.
An airport Officer writes the details of the missing Aviastar plane at a crisis center in Hasanuddin International Airport in South Sulawesi, Indonesia on Oct 02, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – Indonesia’s aerial search for a plane that went missing over Sulawesi the previous day with 10 people abroad was halted on Saturday (Oct 3) afternoon due to bad weather. 

The Aviastar airline Twin Otter turboprop aircraft lost contact with airport authorities on a flight from the town of Masamba about 30 minutes before it was scheduled to land in Makassar city.

Ferdinand Lumintaintang, Aviastar’s flight operation officer, said searching stopped for the day as weather conditions “didn’t support our efforts. The clouds were thick.” He said search operations on land would continue until night.

A Jakarta Globe report citing police in Sulawesi said a signal had been detected from the cellphone of one of the crew members. Police said they were optimistic that the plane could be located. 

The search area is focused on the area around Palopo, a coastal town in South Sulawesi province, the Jakarta Globe said. 

Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has had three major crashes over the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the sea between Surabaya and Singapore on Dec 28, killing all 162 people aboard.

In August, a passenger airliner crashed in Papua killing all 54 people aboard.

More than 100 people were killed in June in the crash of a military transport plane in the northern city of Medan, prompting the government to promise a review of the ageing air force fleet.

According to Aviation-safety.net, Aviastar has had four fatal incidents, including that of an British Aerospace 146-300 aircraft in the eastern province of Papua in 2009, killing all six crew on board.

Indonesia scored poorly on a 2014 safety audit by the UN aviation agency.